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Social Security Disability/Supplemental Security Income


What is the difference between Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Social Security Disability provides monthly benefits for people that are unable to work because of a significant disability that has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or result in death.  Social Security Disability is based on your overall disability and your prior work history. Your personal income is not taken into account in determining whether or not you are eligible for benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides a monthly benefit for people that are limited in the work they can do because of a long-term disability and/or people that are caring for a disabled child. To be eligible for SSI, you must demonstrate financial need.

Social Security Disability

Who is eligible for Social Security Disability?

To file an application for SSD, a person must have a disability that has or is expected to prevent them from returning to work for at least 12 months or result in death. The person must be at least 18 years old and have sufficient past work credits.

What does “sufficient past work credits” mean?

Social Security uses a two part test to determine if someone has sufficient past work credits. First, they consider your recent work. Typically, to be eligible, a person is required to have worked five out of the past ten years. Second, Social Security considers your duration of work, which requires a certain number of years worked over a person’s lifetime, based on age. Our office can help determine whether you have sufficient past work credits.

How does Social Security determine if I am disabled?

Social Security has a five step process to determine if someone is disabled. First, they look to see if you are performing “substantial gainful activity” (defined below). Second, they look to see if you have a medically determinable impairment that is expected to last for at least twelve months or result in death. Third, they determine whether your impairment meets the “listings” (defined below).  If you meet the “listings,” you automatically qualify for benefits.  If you do not meet the listings, Social Security will proceed to the fourth step.  At the fourth step, they assess your current functional ability to see if you can perform your “past relevant work” (defined below).  Fifth, they determine if you can perform any work available in the national economy based on your physical limitations and your education. Social Security uses the vocational grids (defined below) to help make this determination.

What is substantial gainful activity?

Substantial gainful activity is work activity that generates monthly income in excess of a certain amount.  For 2020, the relevant amount is $1,260 for non-blind and $2,110 for blind individuals.

What are the listings?

Social Security has a list of medical impairments that are considered so severe that a person with one of these impairments automatically qualifies as disabled. Our office can help you determine if your condition meets the listings.

What is past relevant work?

Social Security will look at the type of work you performed over the past fifteen years to determine if you are able to return to this type of work. Social Security specifically looks at the physical demands of a particular type of employment to see if your disability restricts you from this type of work.

What are the vocational grids?

The vocational grids set forth standards based on your age, education level, and physical limitations to determine whether you are able to perform work available in the national economy. As with the listings, if your situation meets the standards under the vocational grids, Social Security will automatically consider you to be disabled.

What benefits am I eligible for from the SSA?

You will receive a monthly monetary benefit based on your lifetime earnings record.  After you are entitled for SSD for 24 months, you will also be eligible for Medicare.

Can I return to work after I receive SSD?

If you want to try to return to work, it is necessary that you contact Social Security.  There are certain programs like the “Ticket to Work Program” that allow you to try to return to work without jeopardizing your future benefits if working is too hard for you with your disability.  If you return to work without first notifying Social Security, you will jeopardize your benefits.

Supplemental Security Income

Who is eligible for Supplemental Security Income?

Both disabled adults and parents of disabled children can be eligible for SSI. “Social Security uses the same definition of disability for adults to qualify for SSI as they use for SSD; however, there is no requirement for the adult to have past work credits for SSI. Social Security has a complex system for assessing childhood disabilities, and our office can review your individual situation to determine if you have a potential claim.

Unlike SSD, SSI is need based, which means Social Security will look not only at your current income but also your current assets.


If my income would allow me to qualify for SSI but I have too many assets, can I transfer my assets to someone else, so I will qualify?

No!  Social Security will look back three years to see if you transferred assets out of your name to qualify. If Social Security determines that you did this, you will not be eligible for benefits.

What benefits will I receive from SSI?

Under SSI, you will receive a monthly benefit intended to supplement other income. You will also be Medicaid eligible immediately upon receiving SSI.

General Information

How do I apply?

The initial application for SSD can be submitted online or at a local Social Security office.  Our office can help you through this process and can complete this paperwork for you at your request.

The initial application for SSI can only be completed in person at a local Social Security Office.  Although we cannot help with an initial application, our office can assist you with an appeal.

What happens after I apply?

The Social Security Administration will review your application to see if some initial qualifications are met.  Then your application will be forwarded to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance for review to determine if you meet the definition of disabled under the five-step process discussed above.

Most people are denied at this initial level of review.  The initial process takes approximately 3 to 5 months.

What happens if my initial application is denied?

If your initial application is denied, you have 60 days to request reconsideration.  Our office can help you file this application, but it is very important that you contact us right away. If the request for reconsideration is denied, you have 60 days to file a disability appeal.  Again, it is very important that you contact us right away. The Social Security Administration will then schedule a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.  A Lewis & Lewis, P.C. attorney will represent you at the hearing and ensure that all of the required evidence is submitted to the Judge before the hearing.

At this time, it takes approximately 18 to 24 months to get a hearing in front of a Judge.  During this time it is necessary to keep our office up to date on any changes in your medical condition, so we can make sure the Judge has all the necessary evidence to make a determination on your disability.

Can I receive SSD and SSI at the same time?

Yes.  If you meet the requirements for both programs, you can receive both benefits at the same time.  Our office will determine whether you are eligible for both programs.

Can I receive SSD and/or SSI at the same time as Workers’ Compensation?

Yes.  The benefits you receive under SSD/SSI will be offset by your Workers’ Compensation benefits; however, you will likely receive more money per month.

DISCLAIMER: The above statements do not constitute legal advice. Consumers may wish to consult a lawyer for advice on individual situations.  Contact Lewis & Lewis, P.C. today at (716)854-2100 for a free consultation.

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